Miami is up against a difficult opponent in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. The Loyola-Chicago Ramblers have proven they are a legitimate threat with their stellar regular season play and will look to continue that form in the postseason.
Score in the paint
Thanks to the Ramblers’ general lack of size, the Hurricanes will have a huge advantage in the paint. At 6 feet 9 inches tall, Cameron Krutwig is Loyola’s tallest player receiving regular minutes. In contrast, Dewan Huell and Ebuka Izundu are listed at 6 feet 11 inches and 6 feet 10 inches tall respectively. While this size gap may not be significant, the fact that there is no other Rambler of that height means that when Krutwig sits, Miami will have a notable advantage in that department. This is also important because Krutwig averages just 23.9 minutes per game on the season.
Another plus for the Hurricanes is the disparity in athleticism between the big men. Krutwig is a more physical presence and is listed at 260 pounds, while Izundu and Huell each weigh in at 235 pounds and represent faster figures (Huell in particular). This should allow them to beat Krutwig in face-up situations, transition opportunities, and other drives to the basket. Their added length may also help mitigate their comparatively slight frames.
Dominate the boards
Many of the aforementioned factors will translate to the rebounding battle as well. Neither team has been particularly dominant on the glass as the Canes ranked 245th in the country in total rebounding and the Ramblers ranked 263rd. For that reason, this may not seem like much of an advantage for Miami, but if they are to maximize their chances of winning, they will need to exploit their added height.
Given Loyola’s elite efficiency, it will be essential to limit their opportunities. The more possession Miami has, the better.
Stay disciplined defensively
Loyola will look to keep the Hurricanes off-balanced with constant movement, screening and re-screening, dribble hand-offs, and drive-and-kicks. Effectively defending an offense of this sort requires a tremendous amount of discipline. Staying in front of the opponents and switching when necessary will be essential, especially as the game wears on and fatigue begins to kick in.
A crucial figure in this aspect of the game will be Anthony Lawrence II. He has been Miami’s leader on the defensive end throughout the season, as evidenced by his team-high 2 defensive win shares and 6.4 defensive box plus/minus. He also has a team-best defensive rating of 96.
The Hurricanes will look to Amp to set the tone with his physicality. When the Ramblers inevitably find their way into driving lanes, it will be important to make them feel some sort of contact and prevent easy looks at the rim. For this to be effective, however, it will require defenders to stay in front of their man as to not allow shooters to leak into the corners because of excessive help defense.
Overall, it will be teamwork that gets the Canes where they are hoping to go. If they communicate effectively on defense, and make the right reads on offense, they will have a good chance at advancing as they are the more talented of the two teams. With that being said, look for Dewan Huell, Ebuka Izundu, and Amp Lawrence to be the driving forces of the team play in this particular matchup.
What do you think will be the keys to victory for Miami? Who do you think will make the difference? Comment below with your thoughts.